The Hundredth Side, Part 2
Every side to border the vast impenetrable Eisenwald had heard some variant of that myth of the forgotten kingdom. An implausible place that was both vastly powerful and utterly ruined existing within the depths of the most dangerous region for hundreds of hexes in any direction. Prince Robert of Build-a-Burger knew the story was simply a myth. It was invented to provide a reason that the woods churned out barbarians at such a steady rate but if there was such a side they would be rampaging armies, not raiding barbarians desperate for upkeep. The story also served to salve the wounded pride of rulers that lost stacks upon stacks of scouting forces trying to find safe routes through the forest to flank their enemies.
A contract with Charlescomm revealed the source of the frequent barbarians in the shape of a city ruin 18 hexes into the forest that had lain unclaimed for titans alone knew how long. After a a lengthy debate Robert convinced his father to let him strike out from the familiar rolling hills of their kingdom to make a claim in the storied woodlands. He had high hopes for this campaign and aided by the blessings of Chief Caster Shackleford to make them forest capable he knew he would prove those old stories wrong and claim glory for the kingdom of the StrikeLands.
Prince Robert quickly realized that he had made a mistake after a turn and a half in the forest when he found the way blocked by a deep and swiftly moving river. The lighter infantry and archers could probably cross safely but he'd have to leave behind the heavies and cavalry he brought along and that was out of the question. If only his father had paid Charlie the extra for a map instead of saving the money and supplementing the expedition with three more scouting stacks Robert wouldn't face this dilemma; turn right or left and hope to find a crossing or try to bridge the waters somehow. Fighting the river to try and cross would be the fastest but most hazardous to his army. The Basic infantry would likely be fine but his heavier troops and mounts would be at a very real risk of being lost to the current. Eventually he tossed his sword in the air and it landed with the tip aimed to the right, so to the right they marched.
Four turns into the expedition Robert began to think that perhaps there was some wisdom in the old stories. The ferals in these woods were some of the fiercest the Build-a-Burger forces had ever witnessed. The first time they camped beside the river a stack of stabbers gathering water disappeared leaving behind only a pair of croaked Big Newttins, shreds of armor, a helmet and a few broken swords to mark their final stand. The second turn into the woods was mostly uneventful but they had the bad luckamancy on the last advance to find a large village of small Gourdians. There was no move left to pull back without abandoning part of the column so they had to stay awake fending off the angry vegetables for nearly the entire night. Most of the time they didn't even see the things, there would be a rustling in the shrubs and a string of insulting sounds accompanied by a fusillade of tiny stone spears. No real damage was inflicted by the weapons but stray nicks and cuts they caused often proved poisonous, slowly eroding the strength of the army that should have been resting after a long turns march.
The natural allies they brought along, the Hill Bills, broke the stalemate as they broke the ranks. They ignored their orders to screen the archers and charged madly into the darkened woods. Whether by luck or skill the rampaging heavies squished every evil squash in the woods that night. The fighting ended just before dawn and though they were missing a stack the returning Bills marched into camp just after morning restoration, freshly restored coveralls gleaming as yellow as the rising sun. The remaining Bills had gathered enough pumpkins and squash to cover the entire army upkeep for almost two full turns thanks to their unexpectedly skillful cooking. Supplemented by the fiery Boar-B-Ques the scouts had managed to track the army had high hopes again as they broke though the last hex boundary of the turn. They had found a true gift of the titans, a hex of grassy hills cut through by that winding river. An oasis in the midst of the jagged forest which let them have a proper night of rest and grilling under the stars just like back home.
Sadie and Brad sat together on the short bluff overlooking the river where their commanders and the army were taking a well earned break. Five turns they and the rest of the scouting group spent wandering this accursed jungle, trying to find a river crossing that would let the army pass without risking the mounts and heavies to the swift deep currents and jagged rocks. The Titans had rewarded his scouting groups bravery when they revealed this grassy meadow of a hex. With no more reaping brillo trees to hide Gourdian ambushes or scorched rocks warning of Coalbold tribes on the move. Brad could finally doff his cap and signal the prince that safety had been found.
The solution to their problem was being worked on by the stack of draftsmen the group brought along. They were sketchy looking characters with the strange ability to “fix” things more or less permanently if given enough time. It was interesting to sit and watch them for a while tracing over empty airspace with burger and beer, marking the missing stones that once formed the bridge Sadie had found. Each line they traced with their burger left a white mark in the air until suddenly satisfied they poured the drunk into the outlined space, filling it with a rich royal blue. At this point the draftsman would retreat to the supplies to have himself a drink to “recharge”. They seemed able to turn provisions directly into new construction, albeit with a side effect of incessant rambling stories that never seemed to end until the work did.
By morning a solid and largely blue stone bridge would once again link the sides of the river. The army would cross and they could at long last reach the ruins that had so plagued the rolling hills of Build-a-Burger. All the sides in the region had dealt with waves of barbarians desperate for upkeep raiding out from the forest since turns immemorial.
Gradually Brad noticed Sadie's eyes had wandered from the progress below to the nearby treeline of the hex.
“Relax, this is a totally safe place.”
He leaned in close for a kiss but she hesitated and backed away.
“We should really keep a lookout going, I can't shake this uneasy feeling.”
“You should look at that down there, the might of King Bob assembled to add a hidden city to the side. Look around you at this normal hex of harvestable critters and normal plants that don't try to eat us. And look at that campfire behind us, our stackmates enjoying themselves in this titanic gift of a hex. The paths ahead and behind are tough, but right now is safe and comfortable, lets just enjoy this moment.”
She glanced around then finally back to him with a glint in her eye. The next thing Brad knew he was wrapped in her warm embrace, feeling the tension and worry melt away from her as they moved to form a stack of two.
The natural Dateamancy of the moment shattered after scant seconds as he felt her stiffen once more and felt her press the side of a hand hard into his chest. Confusedly Brads popped his eyes open and pulled back just in time to see her shocked expression go slack and witness the Signamantic change of her beautiful blue eyes scrunching shut into a dark X X.
“Wha..?” was all that could escape him as his eyes, transfixed on her face, watched her head slumped forwards. Her chin came to rest on the back of the blade protruding from her chest and pressing on his. A blade? “Titans Turds!” He was under attack and his own sword was behind him on the ground!
Brad pushed away from her falling into a backwards roll over his sword and came to stop in a crouch, sword at the ready to finally see their attacker. The unit was certainly head and shoulders taller than him, not quite a giant but certainly a heavy. It was wearing ragged neglected looking raiment of a dirty brown jacket and black jeans with frayed cuffs hanging over muddy boots. The thing turned it's head, it's expression obscured by a dirty white armored mask, to follow Sadie as she slid off his blade into a heap at his feet. As she fell Brad lunged forward with his blade outstretched scoring a minor hit as the thing attempted a sidestepping dodge. Readying his next swing for a kneecapping strike bright white stars exploded before him as he fell to is knees with half his hits knocked away from him along with his helmet. The world slid downwards as something grabbed his hair and yanked his head back. The stars faded leaving the far more beautiful ones in the night sky before him, marred by another white mask. This new one was a flimsy looking thing in the shape of a man with a blank expression and combed back hair. This one was in a dirty dark blue jumpsuit and carried a long dagger rather than a machete. The unit's stats finally came into view and he was just able to see that the unit type was called a Slasher before the knife plunged into his chest.
As he lay on the ground he saw Sadie's still form in the grass with the first slasher looking down at him from behind her body. He was stretching his machete arm, testing just how bad the wound was while the second one was already walking to the fire his remaining stackmates were sitting around. They were drinking and roasting the soft mallowy flesh of one of the white veiled deer they'd caught, oblivious to the dangers.
It seemed Slasher 1 decided his arm was good enough to poke Brad once more in the throat. It revealed another surprise as it pulled back for that final thrust, under that dirty jacket it wore a black sleeveless shirt with an emblem on its chest, the unit was Sided! His mind raced at the possibility of that old rumor being true, the ruined capitol in the deadly woods guarded by an immortal mad overlord. Dread filled him as his last sight of this world was his friends sitting happily in camp unaware of the looming shadowy figures that encircled them, slowly moving in for the croak.
This was a really fun read! I kept expecting the Gourdians to tie (or be) tied up in knots. Loved the flying little bridge building drafters on build a burgers.
There's some spelling and grammar issues in the first half you may want to check.
I'm guessing the Slashers are Knights, or have some standing orders to stay hidden and ambush enemies at night, yeah? Hopefully Brad at least yells a warning before the Machete comes down.
A tougher scout that can handle itself in a fight had been ordered by Ozzy and the Slasher is what he got. It's a meld of scout and stabber, a decent fighter with the scout ability to pick its battles... kind of. It feels the basic infantry urge to croak enemies it see, but tempered with a desire to ambush them and take them down before being seen if at all possible. Only after hurting the enemy will it's mind clear of the attack lust enough for it to fall back and report on what it scouted. so while tough it is likely to not reurn from scouting after picking a fight it could have avoided.
I didn't mean to imply the draftsmen were flying though but drawing outlines of the missing bridge pieces, I have to rework that part a little I think.